Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ball Grid Array

The VPU(Video Processing Unit), also referred to as the scalar IC found on LCD TV main boards is a common cause of failure for the main board. The main reason for it's failure is really often just solder connection problems between the VPU and the PCB. The VPU is almost always in a BGA package and this type of package has its problems(connection problems we spoke of earlier) especially when the IC is running as hot as they typically are in LCD main boards often with no type of heat sink.


The BGA is descended from the pin grid array (PGA), which is a package with one face covered (or partly covered) with pins in a grid pattern. These pins conduct electrical signals from the integrated circuit to the printed circuit board (PCB) on which it is placed. In a BGA, the pins are replaced by balls of solder stuck to the bottom of the package. The device is placed on a PCB that carries copper pads in a pattern that matches the solder balls. The assembly is then heated, either in a re-flow oven or by an infrared heater, causing the solder balls to melt. Surface tension causes the molten solder to hold the package in alignment with the circuit board, at the correct separation distance, while the solder cools and solidifies.


The BGA is a solution to the problem of producing a miniature package for an integrated circuit with many hundreds of pins. Pin grid arrays and dual-in-line surface mount (SOIC) packages were being produced with more and more pins, and with decreasing spacing between the pins, but this was causing difficulties for the soldering process. As package pins got closer together, the danger of accidentally bridging adjacent pins with solder grew. BGAs do not have this problem when the solder is factory-applied to the package.

Heat conduction
A further advantage of BGA packages over packages with discrete leads (i.e. packages with legs) is the lower thermal resistance between the package and the PCB. This allows heat generated by the integrated circuit inside the package to flow more easily to the PCB, preventing the chip from overheating.

Low-inductance leads
The shorter an electrical conductor, the lower its inductance, a property which causes unwanted distortion of signals in high-speed electronic circuits. BGAs, with their very short distance between the package and the PCB, have low inductances and therefore have far superior electrical performance to leaded devices.


A disadvantage of BGAs, however, is that the solder balls cannot flex (non-compliant) in the way that longer leads can. As with all surface mount devices, bending, due to a difference in Coefficient of thermal expansion between PCB substrate & BGA (thermal stress), or flexing & vibration (mechanical stress) can cause the solder joints to fracture.

Thermal expansion issues can be overcome by matching the mechanical and thermal characteristics of the PCB to those of the package. Typically, plastic BGA devices more closely match the PCB thermal characteristics than ceramic devices.

Mechanical stress issues can be overcome by bonding the devices to the board through a process called "under filling", which injects an epoxy mixture under the device after it is soldered to the PCB, effectively gluing the BGA device to the PCB. There are several types of under fill materials in use with differing properties relative to workability and thermal transfer. An additional advantage of under fill is that it limits tin whisker growth.

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